Oct 122017
 


Mining for Justice (A Chloe Ellefson Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
8th in Series
Midnight Ink (October 8, 2017)
Paperback: 384 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0738753348
E-Book ASIN: B01N7UGNZB

Chloe Ellefson is excited to be learning about Wisconsin’s Cornish immigrants and mining history while on temporary assignment at Pendarvis, a historic site in charming Mineral Point. But when her boyfriend, police officer Roelke McKenna, discovers long-buried human remains in the root cellar of an old Cornish cottage, Chloe reluctantly agrees to mine the historical record for answers.

She soon finds herself in the center of a heated and deadly controversy that threatens to close Pendarvis. While struggling to help the historic site, Chloe must unearth dark secrets, past and present . . . before a killer comes to bury her.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

This time Chloe Ellefson takes us along on a trip to Mineral Point as she goes there to help out for a week. Roelke drives her there and plans to spend the weekend helping a friend update a family home. Chloe is hoping for a quiet week away from the drama brought on by her boss at Old World Wisconsin but when Roelke uncovers human bones in the root cellar Chloe knows her week in going to be far from quiet. She agrees to do some research to try to determine who the remains belong to and who buried them. This is all before she sets foot in Pendarvis, the historic location of her temporary assignment. A recent newspaper article has the employees there up in arms and Chloe finds herself the person to blame for a state funding problem. She also find another body.

I have lived in Wisconsin my whole life but I always learn something new when reading a Kathleen Ernst mystery. Pendarvis is one of 12 historic sites owned and operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society. “Tucked away in historic Mineral Point, Pendarvis celebrates the restoration and preservation efforts of Robert Neal and Edgar Hellum, who saved a significant part of Wisconsin’s past.”* Sadly, I have never visited there, but using the author’s descriptions I feel like I have. With all the main buildings, land and nearby cottages it makes a wonderful setting for a murder mystery or two. Roelke back in Eagle has a mystery to solve as well.

The  brilliance of this book is the way the author blends history with life in Wisconsin in the 1980’s. We get the story of a Cornish family coming to America and then to Wisconsin in search of a life provided by the mines. Pendarvis recreates and celebrates this time in history but has problems of the current day which for this series is the 1980’s.

Both time periods have very strong females. The woman in the story that immigrated in the 19th century had  to be strong to live among the men working the mines, she even worked at the mines herself before she came to America. She was a trailblazer is protecting children at a time when most were forced to work in the mines. Chloe is the strong woman of current time. She searches for the truth and doesn’t give up even when she is putting herself in danger. She has a resilience that I truly admire.

Many issues are faced within the story, an abusive husband, drug dealers, financial worries, and of course, murder. It is also a story with a nice romance. Chloe and Roelke relationship has grown at a very comfortable place over this series. Set before cell phones, I really enjoy their nightly calls to check-in with each other when they are apart. The way they work together is heartwarming.

Kathleen Ernst is a real treasure. She researches these stories intensely and creates fictional drama based on facts that keep the reader fascinated from the first page to the last. She is an excellent storyteller whose words come alive. Her love of Wisconsin history shines brightly in this and all of her books in this series.  The characters are believable with great dialogues.  The setting always plays a key part and she always leaves me wanting to visit the location as soon as possible.

Each of the books in this series can be read all on their own, but to enjoy the character development you really should read them all. Mining for Justice has become my favorite book in this series and will be included in my Bests Reads of 2017.

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

*Quote from the Pendarvis website.



About The Author

Kathleen Ernst is a social historian, educator, and author. Her Chloe Ellefson mysteries reflect the decade she spent as a curator at a large outdoor museum, and feature historic sites in the Upper Midwest.  Library Journal says, “Ernst keeps getting better with each entry in this fascinating series.” Kathleen has also written many mysteries for young readers.  Honors for her work include a LOVEY Award and Agatha and Edgar nominations.  Kathleen lives and writes in Wisconsin.

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Praise For Mining for Justice (A Chloe Ellefson Mystery)
by Kathleen Ernst

Have no fear as this author weaves a masterful tale. She never drops the ball. Being in Wisconsin I am naturally drawn to the series but anyone who appreciates history and a well written mystery will not want to miss Kathleen’s books.
~Laura’s Interests

This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series. I love that the author mixes history in her mysteries and that you can learn while reading a fun book.
~A. Holland Reads

Wow, this book grabbed my historian heart and held my sleuthing mind to the last page.
~Bibliophile Reviews

Mining for Justice is an outstanding story in an equally outstanding series, one that has quickly become a favorite of mine.
~The Power of Words

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

May 232017
 

The Simplicity of Cider: A Novel
Women’s Fiction
Setting – Wisconsin
Gallery Books (May 16, 2017)
Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1501179723
Paperback: 336 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1501154928
Kindle ASIN: B01HMXRVKO

 

 

Fall in love with The Simplicity of Cider, the charming new novel about a prickly but gifted cider-maker whose quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of a handsome man and his young son at her family’s careworn orchard by the author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and Luck, Love & Lemon Pie.

Focused and unassuming fifth generation cider-maker Sanna Lund has one desire: to live a simple, quiet life on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although her business is struggling, Sanna remains fiercely devoted to the orchard, despite her brother’s attempts to convince their aging father to sell the land.

Single dad Isaac Banks has spent years trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak at home, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, driving across the country. Chance—or fate—led them straight to Sanna’s orchard.

Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

After read Luck, Love & Lemon Pie last year I knew this was an author I would keep me eye on. When I heard about this new book I couldn’t wait to read it.

Isaac Banks and his son Bass, short for Sebastian, are on a cross country adventure. Isaac is trying to protect his son from the realities at home. They soon find themselves in Wisconsin’s Door County. A beautiful place full of cherries, a restaurant where goats graze on the roof, Green Bay (not the town where the Packers play), lighthouses and apple orchards. Isaac and Bass soon find themselves at Idun’s, an apple orchard that has been owned by the Lund family for five generations. Sanna Lund and her father now run the place and Sanna has a special talent for making cider. Her father has mortgaged the farm to purchase all the equipment she needs to produce on a large scale. Her brother has nothing to do with the orchard anymore but thinks it needs to be sold to take care of the debt because they have received a huge offer.

Issac and Bass agree to help with the chores. It is like fate brought them to this place. Sanna really doesn’t like kids but after a couple of days that changes as Bass finds a way into her heart. She and Isaac also feel a connection neither of them understand. When someone’s actions threaten Sanna’s precious trees and the entire orchard things get complicated.

This is such a beautiful story and so well written. The author has a way of writing that pictures of people, time, and place just come alive with such detailed imagery. Maybe it is because I have traveled to Door County several times that I had a crystal clear picture of everything she described but I truly believe it was her words that took me right along with Sanna, Issac and Bass.

She gives us a story of family, love, loss, and a little touch of something that “just is” and can only be explained by the belief that love carries through the generations and appears in unexpected ways.

These are such special characters. Their hearts are heavy with secrets and vulnerability that ebbs and flows through the entire series, even after some trust has been earned. The relationships built are so unique.

The Simplicity of Cider flows at a nice and easy pace. It was a relaxing read. I usually read a book like this in one or two nights but I didn’t want the story to end. I took time to savor every page and word. This book will make my list of Best Reads for 2017.

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Find out more about Amy and her books here

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Jan 102017
 

My First Book Read in 2017

The Mutual Admiration Society: A Novel
by Lesley Kagen
Fiction/Family Life
Setting – Wisconsin
Lake Union Publishing (February 1, 2017)
Paperback: 282 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1503941038
Kindle ASIN: B01G50QX2C

 

 

 

From the New York Times bestselling author of Whistling in the Dark comes an unforgettable novel that illuminates the sweet and brittle bonds of family, the tenderness of growing up, the heartbreak of longing for what we’ve lost, and the poignancy of finding love.

FACT: Unbeknownst to eleven-year-old Theresa “Tessie” Finley, she’s in over her head.

PROOF: After hearing a scream and catching a glimpse of a mysterious man carrying a body beneath the flickering streetlights in the cemetery behind her house, Tessie adds solving a murder case to her already quite full to-do list.

Tessie has elected herself president of the crime-stopping Mutual Admiration Society—as if dealing with her “sad madness” over the tragic drowning of her beloved father; showering tender loving care on her “sweet but weird” younger sister, Birdie; and staying on the good side of their hard-edged mother weren’t enough. With partner in crime Charlie “Cue Ball” Garfield, Tessie and Birdie will need to dodge the gossips in their 1950s blue-collar neighborhood—particularly their evil next-door neighbor, Gert Klement, who’d like nothing better than to send the sisters to “homes.” And, of course, there’s the problem of steering clear of the kidnapping murderer if they have any hope of solving the mystery of all mysteries: the mystery of life.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

FACT: Lesley Kagen captures the voices of children in a profound way.

PROOF: This story!

Set in Milwaukee Wisconsin, we meet 11 year old Theresa “Tessie” Finley, her younger sister, Birdie, and her “fiancee”, Charlie “Cue Ball” Garfield. They make up the Mutual Admiration Society. Tessie is sure she saw a crime committed and the society needs to start its investigation right away. They just need to get around some house rules and Gert Klement, their next door neighbor, who is not their biggest fan. In fact, she believes they need to be sent away.

These characters were first introduced to readers in The Undertaking of Tess, released in 2014. While the author does give plenty of details so that this book can be read on its own, you may want to read the prior story first for more background on the Finley’s. 

As a mystery lover I enjoyed Tessie and her lists and methodical investigation and that Birdie found a key clue and really helped Tessie figure out the suspected murder. Through the eyes of children in the late 1950’s I was able to see things in a different way. It was quite an adventure. Tessie has already dealt with so much in her young life and is responsible for watching over Birdie every day. Her lists do get a little repetitive but through them readers clearly see the way her mind works.

Kagen has crafted a heartwarming story but at times it is heartbreaking too. Her characters are so unique and the dialogue is true to a child’s voice and sprinkled liberally with humor. The world has changed since 1959. It was wonderful to escape back in time and tag along on this adventure with the Mutual Admiration Society.

I have enjoyed everything I have read by this author. She is an extremely talented storyteller.

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Find out more about Lesley Kagen and her books on her webpage here

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Nov 142015
 

dead teaseDead Tease
(Loon Lake Mystery)

12th in Series
Mystery
Setting – Wisconsin
Tyrus Books (March 17, 2012)
Hardcover: 208 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1440533129
Trade Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1440533112
E-Book – ASIN: B007L7LNMO
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A hot August afternoon and Midwest Clinic CEO John McNeil has been working late. Working on his latest conquest, that is. Jen Williams is twenty-six, in charge of graphics for the hospital’s PR division—and quite attractive in a healthy, athletic kind of way. She is quick to laugh and a little too quick to fall for guys. She is no virgin. And she is one of three women—including his wife—intimately familiar with McNeil.

When Jen’s youthful body is found with a single stab wound through the heart, suspicion falls on both McNeil’s wife, who insists she is being stalked, and the striking hospital physician with whom he had just ended an affair. Pressure to find the killer falls on Loon Lake Police Chief Lewellyn “Lew” Ferris and Dr. Paul “Doc” Osborne, the retired dentist and forensic dental expert whom she has deputized to help with the investigation—when they are not taking a break for fishing and other personal pursuits. When the mayor demands Lew take early retirement—and Doc has to babysit his teenage granddaughter who won’t stop texting—the frustrations mount.

Desperate for a few hours off—and persuaded by Ray Pradt (a fishing guide who wears a stuffed trout on his head, so they should have known better)—to try fly fishing from kayaks, Doc and Lew find themselves in life-and-death straits on the river. This leads to an unexpected and macabre discovery that just may break the case.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Time to travel north and escape to Loon Lake. This time Loon Lake Police Chief Lewellyn “Lew” Ferris assisted by Dr. Paul “Doc” Osborne is investigating the death of a young woman. She was found stabbed through the heart outside her home. Lew and Doc start out at her work place and the CEO John McNeil. A man with secrets is always a good suspect.

I have enjoyed this series from the start. I love these characters. When the mayor started pushing about retirement Lew and the reason why he was doing it made me want to scream. But Lew took a little time to reflect and then she found a way to stop the mayor in his tracks and I had a huge smile on my face.

The mystery was good but not great. I did figure it out a little early but it was fun to follow Lew and Doc and their process.

As always the descriptions of the area, Northern Wisconsin, shined.

We were treated to a little humor as fishing guide Ray Pradt tries to make kayak fly fishing a realty. Oh my, Doc and Lew were his guinea pigs and it was so funny except it could have had dire consequences. Knowing they are the main characters I knew it would turn out alright.

just you and a friend4 STARFISH

Dollycas

This book was from my private collection. 

To find out more bout Victoria Houston visit her webpage here.

Jun 262015
 

This is a little different from what I usually review but Michael Perry is a Wisconsin author that writes about life in Wisconsin in a very fun way. This is his debut into fiction waters and I just had to share it with you.

JESUS COWThe Jesus Cow: A Novel
Fiction – Humor – Satire
Setting – Wisconsin
Harper Collins (May 19, 2015)
Hardcover: 304 pages
ASIN: B00N0W4ZT2
E-Book ASIN: B00N0W4ZT2
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Life is suddenly full of drama for low-key Harley Jackson: A woman in a big red pickup has stolen his bachelor’s heart, a Hummer-driving predatory developer is threatening to pave the last vestiges of his family farm, and inside his barn is a calf bearing the image of Jesus Christ. His best friend, Billy, a giant of a man who shares his trailer house with a herd of cats and tries to pass off country music lyrics as philosophy, urges him to avoid the woman, fight the developer, and get rich off the calf. But Harley takes the opposite tack, hoping to avoid what his devout, dearly departed mother would have called “a scene.”

Then the secret gets out—right through the barn door, and Harley’s “miracle” goes viral. Within hours pilgrims, grifters, and the media have descended on his quiet patch of Swivel, Wisconsin, looking for a glimpse (and a percentage) of the calf. Does Harley hide the famous, possibly holy calf and risk a riot, or give the people what they want—and raise enough money to keep his land—and, just possibly, win the woman and her big red pickup truck?

Harley goes all in, cutting a deal with a major Hollywood agent that transforms his little farm into an international spiritual theme park—think Lourdes, only with cheese curds and t-shirts. Soon, Harley has lots of money . . . and more trouble than he ever dreamed.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

This was a wonderful read. I love stories set in my own state. Michael Perry dips his unique writing style into the fiction well and I loved it.

In The Jesus Cow we visit Swivel, Wisconsin on Christmas Eve as Harley Jackson’s cow gives birth to a very special calf. Harley is unsure what to do until Hollywood comes to town and turns his life and the town of Swivel upside down.

Farming, religion, politics, housing recession, ecological concerns, romance, neighborly feuds, and even a bit of scandal come together in the very satirical portrait of small town life.  The people of Swivel are those you could find in any small town. They all have their causes and quirky behaviors. Harley Jackson hasn’t had much luck in the finding true love. He is happy working his job, tending his “beefers” and being part of the volunteer fire department.  I like Harley, he is different. He is introverted and was brought up in a very religious home but has lost his faith. When his calf is born with a clear picture of Jesus Christ on its side he truly wonders if it’s a sign. He remembers the teachings pf his mother. Good Christians do not draw attention. When his secret gets out he is really in a quandary about what to do.

Michael Perry is an incredible storyteller. He has created interesting characters and a town for them to come together and be observed in a way only he can. The story in funny and touching and does have a message.  Those that already loved Perry’s non-fiction works will love this. If he is a new author to you this is a great place to start.

a perfect escape5 STARFISH

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Find out more about Michael Perry and his work on his webpage here.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Dec 042014
 

Cash killsCash Kills:
An Angelina Bonaparte Mystery

2nd in Series
Cozy Mystery
Published by Cozy Cat Press (June 3, 2014)
Trade Paperback: 260 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1939816443
E-Book File Size: 488 KB
ASIN: B00OIG3BOY
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When her office mate, accountant Susan Neh, brings Angelina Bonaparte a client named Adriana Johnson, the PI wonders how she can help this bedraggled young woman. Adriana’s parents, immigrants from the former Yugoslavia, were murdered only a week earlier, in a robbery at their small hardware store. Now she has discovered that, despite living like the working poor, they were actually quite wealthy––with numerous large bank accounts located around the world. Adriana is suspicious about her newfound status and hires Angie to discover the nature of her deceased parents’ wealth. When Angie arrives to interview with the parents’ attorney, Herman Petrovitch, he is missing, but his secretary Dragana is there––lying dead on the office floor, with her head blown off. Homicide detective––and Angie’s own boyfriend––Ted Wukowski, cautions her against getting involved in the murder investigation. Of course, Angie pays little heed to his warning.

I cut the synopsis down a bit because I think the longer version gives too much away.

Dollycas Thoughts

Angie Bo-nah-par-tay is back in the second installment to this mystery series set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I love this character.  She is a feisty, 50 something, private investigator with all the right connections. Her father has ties to the mob and her boyfriend is a police detective. She has friends in high and low places and she uses all those connections to help keep Adriana Johnson safe while she investigates her monetary windfall due to her parents death. Angie opens quite a can of worms. While following the clues she realizes there is much more there than she ever imagined. Could the money and her parent’s deaths be connected? Can this really go back to the Bosnian War?

Angie really starts to look at Adriana as more than a client. Her mothering instincts start to take over and that could mean trouble as she lets her guard down regarding her own safety. Adriana has led a very sheltered and meager life and can’t believe the way her parents had deceived her.

This is quite a story. Set at Thanksgiving time I read this at the perfect time. In addition to investigating Adriana’s case Angie has a lot going on in her personal life. Her relationship with Ted is flowing at a perfect pace. She finally meets Ted’s Polish mother and she invites both of them to her family’s Sicilian/American Thanksgiving so they can meet her very unique family. (You do know that Thanksgiving is the most stressful holiday don’t you?)

The Russian and Serbian elements were very interesting as I usually think of Milwaukee and Wisconsin having a strong German and Polish population but it has truly become a melting pot for all nationalities. In fact I just learned the Bosnian population is growing in Milwaukee due to the recent migration after the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and that ties right into this story. Thank you Wikipedia.

Nanci Rathbun has given us wonderful characters and they are real and down to earth. They are truly fleshed out with depth and it is so easy to become involved in their lives. From Spider, the bodyguard to Angie’s Aunt Terry, these are people I want to know more about.  This author’s story lines are tight with the main plot and subplots woven seamlessly together. Her setting is less than hour from my home and she shows us many sides to Milwaukee. It is fun to read about places you are familiar with. There is also humor spread throughout the story to balance out the edges of the mystery.

This is a great follow up to Truth Kills and I can’t wait to get my hands on Deception Kills when it comes out next year.

a perfect escape5 STARFISH

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

author NanciAbout This Author

Nanci Rathbun is a lifelong reader of mysteries – historical, contemporary, futuristic, paranormal, hard-boiled, cozy … you can find them all on her bookshelves. She brings logic and planning to her writing from a background as an IT project manager, and attention to characters and dialog from her second career as a Congregationalist minister. Her first novel, Truth Kills: An Angelina Bonaparte Mystery, is out in both paperback and ebook formats. The first chapter is available free on her web site and on her Goodreads page. Cash Kills is the second book in the series. Number three has a working title of Deception Kills, with plans to publish in 2015.

Nanci is a longtime Wisconsin resident who relocated to Tennessee to be closer to her granddaughters – oh, and their parents – and is planning an upcoming move to the West Coast for the same reason. No matter where she lives, she will always be a Packers fan.

Author Links
Webpage: http://nancirathbun.com
Facebook: Author Nanci Rathbun
Twitter: @nancirathbun
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7199317.Nanci_Rathbun
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Nanci-Rathbun/e/B00E9E7QCI

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Oct 182014
 

First I need to apologize to Christine DeSmet. I love featuring authors from my home state of Wisconsin. It definitely took me way too long to find this series!

FIRST DEGREE FUDGE
First-Degree Fudge:
A Fudge Shop Mystery

First in the Series
Cozy Mystery
An Obsidian Mystery (September 3, 2013)
An Imprint of New American Library
Published by The Penguin Group
Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0451416476
E-Book File Size: 753 KB
ASIN: B00BDQ38V8
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New candy store owner Ava Oosterling specializes in making heavenly homemade fudge and fresh starts. But she’s just found out that her newest flavor is to die for….

Between getting her store up and running and uneasily settling back into her charming Lake Michigan hometown, Ava Oosterling has her plate full. She hopes using local fresh dairy and her own flavorful imagination to cook up one-of-a-kind fudge will also create a brand-new start for her. And if she can tempt wealthy ex–film star Rainetta Johnson to try her newest creation, Cinderella Pink, at a local fund-raiser, maybe her road to big-time success will be short and sweet.

But when Rainetta chokes to death on a stolen diamond hidden in the fudge’s fluffy depths, Ava is pegged as the prime suspect. Now saving her business and reputation means investigating a batch of townspeople who had numerous reasons to hate disdainful, hard-bargaining Rainetta. With Ava’s best friend and her former flame in the suspect mix, she must figure out who the real culprit is fast or face a very bitter end.…

Includes Delicious Fudge Recipes and Fudge-Making Tips!

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Oosterling’s Live Bait, Bobbers, & Belgian Fudge is where Ava Oosterling sells her fudge right across the store where her grandfather sells bait, bobbers, beer and other things a fisherman may need. Located on the pier in Fisher’s Harbor, Wisconsin, in the heart of Door County.

Door County is a place we have vacationed at several times over the years and Fisher’s Harbor depicts clearly the life of the towns along the peninsula protruding into Lake Michigan. I enjoyed all the local references included those outside of Door County. Heck the town we are living in now even gets a mention. Door County is known for its lighthouses, fish boils and cherry orchards.  Wisconsin is also home to the Green Bay Packers and fans just love their beer and brats. The author gives us a great overview of the entire area.

She introduces us to Ava who has returned to the area after short stints in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. One bad decision pulled her life off course and she has come back home to start over. Her parents own a farm that can supply some of the fudge ingredients and her grandfather (Gilpa) has some room in his store. Together they decided to add a few special things and make half of the shop a place for Eva to make and sell her fudge.  She has a chance to really get her product off to a good start at an event ex–film star Rainetta Johnson will be attending but things go awry when the actress is found dead with a piece of Ava’s fudge in her mouth.

An author faces an uphill battle when debuting a new cozy series. They not only need to introduce to the characters and the setting but they also have to wrap it all in a mystery that keeps readers engaged while at the same time leaving room for the characters to grow in future installments. I think Christine DeSmet did this very well. The premise of the mystery was a little bit out there but I could see the possibilities. One major clue helped me to  figure out who the killer was a bit before Ava but I did enjoy her following the breadcrumbs and catch the culprit.

The story has just the right amount of humor and romantic tension you could cut with a knife. The characters are charming and I want to know more about them.  DeSmet has laid a good foundation for the series. I hope to read Hot Fudge Frame-Up soon. Five-Alarm Fudge. the 3rd book in the story will be out April 7, 2015.

just you and a friend4 STARFISH

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Find out more about Christine DeSmet and her books on her web page here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Apr 242013
 

cozy wednesday

Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!!
I love that this series is set in Wisconsin!!
Just a hop, skip and jump from my home town!
I am thrilled to have Laura drop by for a visit!!!

laura aldenOne of the things people often ask me is: where do I get the ideas for my books?

The evolution of a book is an odd thing, but most of the time I have an answer for this question. As in, the idea came to me after hearing a news report about something similar. Or the idea popped into my tiny little brain when my husband was talking about a baseball game he’d watched the previous night. Or I was doing some free writing and one thought led to another and then another, and then bingo! the story idea was born.

curse of the ptaFor Curse of the PTA, however, the answer is completely different. Because…well…I honestly have no idea where the idea came from. None whatsoever. I don’t remember getting the idea. I don’t remember figuring out who the victim was going to be and I don’t remember how I figured out the killer’s identity. I don’t remember anything about setting up the murder and I don’t remember learning the why of it all.

Sad, isn’t it? To think that I’ve forgotten the origins of a book that occupied months of my time is more than a little disconcerting.

But there are bits that I do remember. For instance, there’s a crucial subplot that I couldn’t make work for beans. The motivation I’d given the character was weak and, really, just plain didn’t make sense. It took days of free writing and one critical conversation with my husband to have it gel into something sensible. (If you read the book, please note the dedication. He deserves it, without a doubt.)

And the Big Scene at the end was a big muddle until I begged some writer friends for suggestions. One of their suggestions worked like a charm – “How about adding another character to the scene?” – and everything suddenly started working.

Yes, the evolution of a book is an odd thing, and in my experience, no two books take the same path. Of course, there are some common elements to all the books I write. Such as? Well…there’s the First Flush. These are the heady days when I start a manuscript. The whole thing is fresh and new and I haven’t messed anything up. This is when I know, just know, that this will be the book that will sell zillions of copies and will enable me to quit my day job and write full time.

Book4_Sinii1

Sinii

Sadly, the First Flush doesn’t last forever, and somewhere around the middle the Deadly Doldrums set in. These are the days that I know, just know, that this is the book that will end my writing career. This is when I’m sure that everything I’ve written is complete dreck. This is when I know, without a doubt, that the entire book is junk and that my editor will make me toss it out and start all over again.

(This is also when it’s very, very nice to have writer friends who understand about this phase of a book.)

At some point, I write myself out of the Deadly Doldrums and next thing you know, it’s time for the Exciting Endings. These are the scenes the whole book has been aiming toward, the scenes where the Bad Guy (or Bad Girl) is about to get his (or her) just desserts. It’s during the Exciting Endings phase that I forget to eat and sleep, and these are the days when I know, just know, that writing is the best job in the world.

Unfortunately, right on the heels of the Exciting Endings phase is the Wretched Wrap-up. This is the last chapter or two, the chapters where I have to tie everything together, where all the tricky ends of the narrative are knitted together to make a solid and satisfying ending.

This phase makes me extremely nervous. Why? Well, it takes me roughly four months to write a first draft and odds are good that I’ve forgotten all sorts of things that I wrote into the book three months previously.

Not only that, but when I’m done with the Wretched Wrap-up, I’ll be done with the first draft. I’ll be done writing. I’ll be done with those characters and will have to say an odd sort of good-bye. Sure, I’ll see them again during the revisions, but that’s a more distant relationship, one in which I’m merely tweaking at their personalities, not diving down deep into their thoughts and feelings and memories.

So the wrap-up makes me feel a little wretched in a number of ways. Saying good-bye is rarely easy, even to fictional characters.

Then again, when a writer says good-bye to a set of characters, it means only one thing. Another set of characters is just around the bend, patiently waiting their turn to get into a book, waiting for their own evolution.

~Laura

About This Author
Laura Alden grew up in Michigan and graduated from Eastern Michigan University in the 80’s with a (mostly unused) Bachelor of Science degree in geology. Currently, Laura and her husband share their house with two very strange cats. When Laura isn’t writing, she’s working at her day job, reading, yanking weeds out of her garden, or doing some variety of skiing. Laura’s debut novel, “Murder at the PTA” was an Agatha Award finalist for Best First Novel. Her fourth book, “Curse of the PTA,” was released in April 2013.

To find out more about Laura visit her webpage here.

laura-alden-facebook

 
 
 
 
 

 

curse of the pta

Curse of the PTA
3rd in Series
Cozy Mystery
Obsidian (April 2, 2013)
An Imprint of New American Library
Published by The Penguin Group
Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0451415066
E-Book File Size: 711 KB
ASIN: B009UZ9J9O

Curse of the PTA (Beth Kennedy #4)

As the new PTA president, Beth Kennedy wants to make a difference in the lives of the students and faculty at Tarver Elementary. But with a killer on the loose, staying alive is the first order of business…

Beth’s fantastic Story Project, pairing senior citizens from the nursing home with elementary kids, ended up with the PTA publishing a book with the kids retelling the stories they heard from the seniors and it was a huge success. So successful the PTA may want to think about investing some of the money until they can decide how to spend it.  Beth has invited Dennis Halpern, a local financial consultant, to their meeting to inform them about their options.  Before he can even start to give his presentation different members start lobbying for how they think the money should be spent. Beth does her best to regain control of the meeting and calls for a short break.  During the recess Dennis’s ideas are overruled before he even gets to share them. Someone decided to expel him permanently! Right there in the school!

With the doors to the building unlocked, virtually anyone could have done the deed. And they soon discover that Dennis had plenty of secrets. Now locals are whispering that the PTA is cursed, and it’s up to Beth to catch the killer before she gets cashed out.

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Beth has her hands full as president of the PTA. Claudia is doing everything she can to make sure nothing runs smoothly. But Beth is resolved to show she can do this job, even if she has to be on every sub-committee to get things done. And now she has a murderer to catch.

What makes these cozies a success are that we all know someone exactly like these characters. We all have a friend like Marina, a senior we care about like Flossie, and one we have to care about because they are like family like Auntie May. We all know troublemakers like Claudia, and we shop at stores like Beth’s Bookstore. I do wish I had a “problem” like Summer’s. The stories are about small town life with problems like a murder we wouldn’t wish on anyone. Thankfully Beth can fit the clues together to help Gus catch the culprit even though he prefers she would keep her nose out of his police work.

Guns are a hot topic now in the U.S., guns in schools even hotter. I am sure Tarver Elementary will have a whole new set of rules by the next installment of this series.

This one will keep you guessing. The people of Rynwood sure keep more than their share of secrets. Kudos Laura! This is a wonderful story!!
a perfect escape
5 STARFISH

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Thanks to the people at Penguin
I have 2 copies to giveaway!!

U.S. and CANADIAN RESIDENTS
You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

Leave a comment for Laura for 5 Bonus Entries !

If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End May 8, 2013 at 11:59 PM CST
Winners Will Be Chosen By Random.org
Winners Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

CLICK HERE FOR ENTRY FORM

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Apr 182013
 

special guest blue

 

Christina grew up in rural Wisconsin so I am thrilled to have her visit today. She has a new book out, The Edge of the Earth, was released April 2. Check out my review after Christina’s post and be sure to enter the giveaway.

  118930089_Christina_Schwarz             In An American Childhood, Annie Dillard writes about how the books she read as a girl led her away from the Midwest that had nourished her and that she loved with its “big hardwood trees outside the windows, and the terrible Midwest summers, and the terrible Midwest winters.”  She says that the Midwest lovingly wills its children to “stay and find a place among its familiar possibilities.”  In the end, though, she sorrowfully left it, “having grown strong and restless” in the very act of opposing that will.  The theme in The Edge of the Earth that feels most tightly tied to my real life is the idea of feeling compelled to leave a loving world of familiar possibilities for who knows what.  When I decided that my character was going to travel to a strange and isolated lighthouse in California, I knew instantly that the other side of that story—the known and civilized world that she would leave—would be Milwaukee.

the edge of the earthHowever long I live in California—or elsewhere (I’ve flitted back and forth across the country several times)—I will forever identify myself first as a Midwesterner.  Perhaps distinctions of geography are less powerful than they once were, but to me there’s still a detectable difference.  The Easterner has a degree of sophistication and the Westerner conveys an uncomplicated self-confidence that I will forever lack.  Instead, I possess the down-to-earth quality of the Midwesterner, a trait I’m convinced is not unrelated to a matter-of-factness that comes from thinking that it’s perfectly normal to move through air chilled to 40 below and then superheated to 97 humid degrees within a six month period.

Wisconsin settings are key elements in three of my four novels, and even in the book that has no scene in the literal Midwest—All Is Vanity —I deliberately incorporated a California town, Glendale, that has for me a Midwestern flavor.  The Midwest is where I learned to see and appreciate the world.  That its beauties are often subtle, softened by rolling hills and dense layers of green, has made me a careful observer, alert to fine detail.  That drama in the Midwest is often understated, cloaked by polite cheerfulness, gives me a keen understanding of the complexity of people’s motives and behavior.

In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carroway finds himself unable to fully enter into the excesses of the east coast, but because he has the perspective of a Midwesterner, which in his case might boil down to a clear sense of who he is, he’s able to clearly perceive and tell the story of Gatsby, Daisy and Tom (other Midwesterners who lose their way).  For me, too, the Midwest is the grounding place, the essence of home.

~Christina

About This Author
Christina Schwarz, author of three previous novels, including Oprah Book Club pick Drowning Ruth, grew up in rural Wisconsin. She has lived in Washington D.C., New York City, England and New Hampshire, and now lives in Pasadena, California. To capture the atmosphere of the central California coast for The Edge of the Earth, she dragged her husband and son (along with a passel of dogs and a cat) to Big Sur for months at a time.

the edge of the earth

The Edge of the Earth: A Novel
Historical Fiction
Atria Books (April 2, 2013)
A Division of Simon & Schuster
Hardcover: 288 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1451683677
E-Book File Size: 741 KB
ASIN: B008J2BZVY

The Edge of the Earth


In 1898, a woman forsakes the comfort of home and family for a love that takes her to a remote lighthouse on the wild coast of California. What she finds at the edge of the earth, hidden between the sea and the fog, will change her life irrevocably.

Trudy has been raised to marry her childhood sweetheart and make her home in Milwaukee but she yearns for a more adventurous life and she falls in love with Oskar. He plans to travel far away from the Midwest and she believes she has found an escape to her preordained life.

But she never imagined a life like this. Alienated from friends and family the couple moves to Point Lucia, California. A desolate outcropping between the ocean and inaccessible wilderness. Oskar is the new assistant lighthouse keeper and the only other inhabitants of the area are the Crawleys who are very set in their ways. Trudy will find that nothing is as she might have predicted, especially as she discovers what hides among the rocks.

Dollycas’s Thoughts
Schwarz is a truly gifted storyteller. Her descriptive style of writing gives this poignant story a life that was pure pleasure to read.

She has created rich and realistic characters and placed them in an extraordinary place. Imagine days filled with talking with 4 other adults and 4 children for months and months on end. The tender only brings supplies every few months.

Trudy goes from a life where practically everything was done for her to taking care of herself and her husband and even teaching the children. Oskar is a stubborn, selfish man. He has dreams for a great invention but he loses interest before any come to fruition. Euphemia Crawley is a woman hardened by her isolated life. She tries to keep rein on 4 wild, rambunctious children who have frequent “mermaid sightings”.

The story takes some unexpected turns and this reader was surprised by the ending. I enjoyed The Edge of the Earth. It is a story that will stick with you.

a perfect escape

5 STARFISH

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

I am giving my gently read review copy to one lucky winner.

U.S. and CANADIAN RESIDENTS
You do not have to be a follower to enter but I hope you will find
something you like here and become a follower.

Followers Will Receive 2 Bonus Entries For Each Way They Follow.
Plus 2 Bonus Entries For Liking My Facebook Fan Page.

Leave a comment for Christina for 5 Bonus Entries !

If you publicize the giveaway on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere you will receive
5 Bonus Entries For Each Link.

Contest Will End May 2, 2013 at 11:59 PM CST
Winners Will Be Chosen By Random.org
Winners Will Be Notified By Email
and Will Be Posted Here In The Sidebar.

CLICK HERE FOR ENTRY FORM

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

the edge of the earthliterary road trip 2012readalattechallenge_zps01d248d0a-z challenge 2013large

Review: Plotting at the PTA by Laura Alden

 Reviews 2012, Wisconsin Setting  Comments Off on Review: Plotting at the PTA by Laura Alden
Jul 272012
 

Plotting at the PTA
(PTA Mystery Series)
3rd in Series
An Obsidian Mystery
Published by New American Library
A Division of the Penguin Group
Published July 3, 2012
310 Pages or 760 KB

Plotting at the PTA

Beth Kennedy has a wonderful money making idea for the P.T.A. A project that matches a Senior Citizen from a local assisted living center with Tarver Elementary students so that the elders can share their stories. The students then write up the information to publish in a book for the group to sell.

Beth gets a little sidetracked when one of regular customers at the bookstore, Amy Jacobson, dies after receiving several bee stings. It seems a little early for bees in Wisconsin and Amy was so very careful whenever she ventured outside.

Beth finds herself buzzing around trying to get the rest of the story. Who may have wanted Amy stung permanently?

Dollycas Thoughts

Beth always finds herself hip deep in a mystery and those mysteries usually involve murder. She is so easy to identify with because her huge heart shines through in everything she does. Even when she is trapped into doing something she doesn’t want to do. I found myself not liking Auntie May here and there but she also reminded me a lot of my mother. 🙂

The story has it’s twists and turns and one very surprising development. This author’s writing continues to get better and better. She is letting her characters evolve so naturally. Beth is getting to know her customers. She knows when they do things that just aren’t normal for them. The dialogue between Marina and Beth is fresh and full of humor. The members are the P.T.A. are unique and real, every school group has a Claudia.

The next installment has been set up. Beth is sure to have some challenges ahead. I can’t wait!!

Dollycas

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Murder Wears Mittens (Seaside Knitters Society) by Sally Goldenbaum Get Your Copy Today!
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